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Tuesday, May 8, 2018

Is this the Ultimate in Luxury Travel or Just an Overpriced Expedition?

"Conspicuous consumption of valuable goods is a means of reputability to the gentleman of leisure."

-Thorstein Veblen

Recently LTD stayed at the King David Hotel in Jerusalem. While there we noticed other Americans staying at our hotel wearing purple lanyards and the following day, the same individuals were walking along the boardwalk in Tel Aviv.  Eager to speak to other Americans, we struck up a conversation. Notably some of the individuals in this travel group were from our neck of the woods: Charlotte, North Carolina. We were traveling with Abercrombie & Kent which LTD previously reviewed. Upon asking these Americans what company they were traveling with, they responded they were on an around-the-world expedition with National Geographic and the Wall Street Journal. Intrigued, we began asking them more questions. They described to us that their journey consisted of a meeting point of San Francisco. From there, they took off in a "private" jet that was for their group and guides only. In total the private jet had 150 occupants including guests, guides and staff. Asking if they had lie flat seats, the responded no.

Here is what we learned from them about their journey:

–The Wall Street Journal offered a specialized itinerary with a focus on business, innovation and new technologies in partnership with National Geographic called Celebrating Human Ingenuity: An Exploration of Technology and Creativity. It was a 19-day trip (October 22-November 9, 2017) for 75 passengers across six continents with editors from the newspaper (including Editor-in-chief Gerard Baker) and experts from Nat Geo. The itinerary took travelers from Silicon Valley to Kyoto; Singapore; Jaipur; Seychelles; Kigali; Rwanda; Jerusalem and Barcelona. Travelers stayed in each location for 2-3 days including travel time.  Hotels included Ritz Carlton, and Taj properties and King David in Jerusalem for example.

Investigating the National Geographic website showed us more information. The private modified 757 jet offers:

 • 77 PASSENGER seats in a 2x2 configuration, instead of the standard 233 seats but the guides and staff need seats too.

• leather seating with adjustable leg and headrests and a 45-degree recline. NOT LIE FLAT!

• crew-to-traveler ratio — 1 to 5.

• specially-trained flight crew — including three pilots, expedition chef, catering officer, eight flight attendants, two engineers, and a dedicated luggage handler.

• A dedicated expedition physician who accompanies the group on the jet and on land.

• Audio-visual capabilities with 24 flat-screen monitors for onboard seminars and destination-specific movies and documentaries.

• iPads loaded with trip-related content for use during flights IF YOU CAN STAY AWAKE!

• In-seat power outlets and storage space for laptops, digital cameras, and other personal devices.


Prices started at $81,950 per person double occupancy!  AND you had to provide your own transportation to SFO and home from Barcelona.

National Geographic's 2018 "Around the World Bu Private Jet" tour is 24 days long, round-trip from Washington DC and visiting 12 UNESCO World Heritage sites, including Machu Picchu, Easter Island and Tanzania.  The duration in each site is 1-2 days including travel.  Prices start at $82,500 per person double occupancy.  Three of four 2018 departures are sold out.  Whew, just thinking about this whirlwind trip makes us very tired!!!

Our thoughts?

  • Yes it is exclusive, but is it worth the cost?  
  • The plane should have lie flat seats for this itinerary!
  • The hotels and sites are the same as we typically have on our tours, just not all in one exhausting itinerary.
  • The passengers we met on this tour WERE EXHAUSTED both from the pace and the time zone changes.

There are many "Luxury Experiences" available and dandelion chandelier has a nice list of options in case you're interested.

In LTD's opinion, our objection is the same that many have about cruises:  Not enough time in any one spot immerse yourself into the location.

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